It used to be that the only thing a writer had to worry about was getting the butt-in-chair and writing the darned story – yes, we worried about selling it to the publisher but that was secondary, to my eyes, to getting the story done.
And, of course, as soon as you finished it the hunt began for a publisher. Unfortunately within the last few decades a new industry arose, the idea of vanity publishing and the less-than-honest publishers who would try and sell you the idea that they would publish your epic work and pay you a whole dollar, letting you skip over that whole “traditional” publishing system that just didn’t like new authors, yatta yatta yatta.
Vanity publishers were at least honest. You pay them and they print your work. No editing, no promotion unless you paid for it – it was in its time the precursor to self-publishing to a degree. But there were plenty of vanity houses that would demand up to $5K from the author before printing up crappy copies and handing them off to the author who would then try to resell them and break even, much less make a profit.
With the rise of self-publishing there seems to be a growing wave of scoundrels out to get money from authors without delivering a product. Instead of promising to publish their books and make the author rich they offer cheap book covers and editing and promotion only to disappear when the author asks for the final product.
The Kindleboards are full of sob stories about people paying for cover art and never hearing from the artist again or editing or other resources. It seems that scam artists have moved away from running their own publishing houses and now lurk on self-publishing boards to pull in authors looking for help to make their self-publishing books look as good as possible.
I’ve already written about when small publishers go bad – I’ll admit that I got taken in by one of these small pubs many, many years ago. I leapt at the idea of being published and while I didn’t pay for anything I got little to no editing and no distibution other than what I hawked myself. And not being a super salesman I didn’t sell much. In fact when I wrangled the rights away the publisher whined because they hadn’t included a clause holding back a reserve against returns and in fact they were actually *out* money. I pointed out it was their problem, not mine, and thought nothing of it until a year later when I received notice they’d sold an ebook copy of a book that I thought had disappeared. I squawked, they threatened legal action over the money they’d lost on my returns, I shot back that I’d love to go to court over the crappy contract and the fact they were selling my book illegally. Silence ensued. But that publisher is still out there among others appealing to new authors to come and submit their books – and some still do.
If you’re self-publishing or if you’re looking for a trade publisher I can’t recommend the Absolute Write boards enough, especially the Bewares forum. Here you can ask for help to find out who’s good, who’s bad and who’s an author’s worst nightmare. The Kindleboards are also an excellent resource for the self-publisher looking for references and resources to find good and reliable help to put their work looking as good as possible.
No matter which route you choose, be it self-publishing or trade, there’s unscrupulous people out there who will want your money and not want to give anything back. Let’s be careful out there, folks – do your research and stay safe!